The K-drama wave isn’t going anywhere soon. Whether you’re a casual viewer or an avid fan, we’re sure that there are titles you’re absolutely familiar with because of their immense popularity in and out of South Korea or their record-breaking ratings in South Korean local cable TV.
There’s The World Of The Married which currently ranks first on the list. Satirical drama Sky Castle, which has held its spot since 2018, comes in at second place. Heart-fluttering favourite Crash Landing On You (CLOY) also makes the list at third. Family drama Reply 1988, which aired in 2015, is also still among the ranks after all these years. Closing the Top 5 list is Goblin: The Lonely And Great Guardian, which held the first place for four consecutive years before CLOY came into the picture in 2020.
While watching (and re-watching) these highest-rated dramas is always fun, there’s no harm in finding new K-dramas that also have gripping plots and great entertainment value. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of other highest-rated K-dramas you need to know.
Mr. Queen (2020)
This recently wrapped-up drama aired along the same time as hyped rom-com True Beauty, which might explain why you may have missed it. Now that you don’t have to split your attention between the two, we highly recommend you watch Mr. Queen ASAP.
The story starts in present-day Seoul with Jang Bong-Hwan (Choi Jin-Hyuk) working as a chef at President’s Blue House. In a twist of events, he accidentally finds himself transported back to the Joseon period — with his soul trapped in the body of the current queen (Shin Hye-Sun). With no knowledge of why things turned out the way they did, Jang Bong-Hwan has no choice but to live as the reigning monarch and navigate his way through Joseon court’s political drama.
Overall rating + why you need to watch it: 17.371 per cent. Soul-swapping has always been a popular theme in Asian dramas. While it may be formulaic, it’s still a foolproof way to inject effective comedy into any plot, something Mr. Queen succeeds at. However, on top of its lighthearted moments, Mr. Queen also provides edutaining value by showcasing how leadership and resiliency in history play a huge role in where the future of a society is headed.
Want to take a break from binging rom-coms? This fantasy police drama starring Lee Je-Hoon, Kim Hye-Soo, and Cho Jin-Woong is the one to watch. Most of the episodes are based on real-life criminal incidents in South Korea. Its overarching plot is also inspired by the Hwaseong serial murders, which remains one of the country’s biggest criminal cases to date.
Where’s the fantasy twist, you ask? It’s all in a walkie-talkie present-day investigator Park Hye-Yeong (Lee Je-Hoon) picks up while working on a case. After tinkering with it a bit, he finds himself communicating 15 years into the past with officer Lee Je-Han (Cho Jin-Woong) who is currently missing in modern-day Seoul. Through the walkie-talkie, they exchange information from the past and the present in hopes of eliminating unsolved cases in both their timelines.
Overall rating + why you need to watch it: 12.533 per cent. Despite being fictional, the drama satisfies people’s natural curiosity about ‘what if we knew better’, especially when it comes to criminal cases that are not far from our reality. It delivers a sense of hope laced with excitement through its leave-you-at-the-edge-of-your-seat type of storytelling. Binge-worthy? This drama is definitely it.
The Uncanny Encounter (2021)
The Uncanny Encounter is set in the fictional town of Jungjin where four demon hunters — So Mun (Jo Byung-Gyu), Ga Mo-Tak (Yoo Jun-Sang), Do Ha-Na (Kim Seo-Jeong), and Choo Mae-Ok (Yeom Hye-Ran) — reside. They joined the cause in exchange for immortality, and disguised themselves as workers in an inconspicuous noodle shop to protect their supernatural identities.
Overall rating + why you need to watch it: 10.999 per cent. Unlike your usual ensemble K-drama where at least two of the leads get involved romantically, The Uncanny Encounter focuses more on relationships outside of romance. It zooms in on themes such as family, friendship, and duty, all tied together by an exciting superhero-inspired treatment. This drama was also tagged as OCN’s highest-rated drama to date and has already been renewed for a second season.
The Crowned Clown (2019)
Tree With Deep Roots, Moon Embracing The Sun, The Royal Gambler — Yeo Jin-Goo is no stranger to historical dramas since his youth. But one that’s often overlooked among the more recognisable roles he’s done is The Crowned Clown.
In this drama, Yeo Jin-Goo shows off his versatile acting chops as two characters: King Lee Hun and court jester Ha Sun. Lee Hun’s reign gets surrounded by social unrest, so much so that he gets assassination threats, leading to Ha Sun’s hiring as his body double. As Ha Sun takes on the role, he develops romantic feelings for Lee Hun’s wife, Queen Yoo So-Woon (Lee Se-Young), which adds to the fear of his true identity being discovered.
Overall rating + why you need to watch it: 10.851 per cent. Aside from Yeo Jin-Goo’s amazing performance in the drama, the political dynamic in this series will definitely leave you engrossed from beginning to end. Finding out the fate of the romance between the queen and her husband’s imposter also adds a layer of intrigue to the story.
Love (Ft. Marriage And Divorce) (2021)
Centering on three women in their 30s (Boo Hye-Ryung played by Lee Ga-Ryeong), 40s (Sa Pi-Young played by Park Joo-Mi) and 50s (Lee Si-Eun played by Jeon Soo-Kyeong) who work together in one radio program, the drama explores the family dynamics of working women in different stages of their lives. While everything seems picture-perfect at first, things get more complicated for the three of them as secrets about their lives — as well as their significant others — suddenly unravel.
Overall rating + why you need to watch it: 9.656 per cent. Family dramas — with a major emphasis on drama — are without a doubt some of the most exciting ones to watch. After all, they pull some inspiration from real life that, to some extent, we can find ourselves relating to. This is where Love (Ft. Marriage And Divorce) excels in the most, giving us a glimpse of the ups and downs of married life without necessarily spoiling anything.
Our K-drama binge-list has definitely grown with these titles and we hope yours did, too!
(Cover photo from: @tvchosuninsta)